The revamped programming team of Geoffrey Gilmore, Genna Terranova and new addition Frederic Boyer builds an exciting line-up for the Tribeca Film Festival’s 11th year.

Each year, the Tribeca Film Festival tries to bring something new to the table in its ongoing quest to forge a unique identity. The April time slot positions it, unenviably, well inside the orbit of Cannes. Yet the festival has held its own for a decade and never struggles to deliver a programme of mostly new work.

This year, inspired by the arrival of new artistic director Frederic Boyer (formerly of Directors’ Fortnight) and the greater involvement of Tribeca Enterprises chief creative officer Geoffrey Gilmore (who joined from Sundance in 2009), the buzz centres on the personnel within the core programming team and there is a palpable sense of excitement over the line-up.

“Tribeca has taken steps over the past couple of years, and this year it feels as though we have taken a jump,” Gilmore says of the 11th annual event. “There’s a balance between US and international films. And there is really interesting, evocative work on the documentaries side, which has been a strength of Tribeca as we’ve tended to balance the specific nature of a subject with a deeper exploration.”

New programming focus

Gilmore’s role has evolved to the extent that he now oversees the overall programme. He is glad to be back in the saddle alongside new artistic director Boyer; newly promoted director of programming Genna Terranova, who has been at the festival since 2007; and returning programmer Cara Cusumano. He says: “I have dived into the festival this year for the first time. This whole new programming team, Frederic, Genna, and the old team stepped up [to deliver] a diversity of programming. We’re really excited about it.

‘Tribeca has taken steps over the past years, and this year it feels like we have taken a jump’

Geoffrey Gilmore, Tribeca Enterprises

The World Before Her from the doc section explores issues about women in India. It takes you into a different universe. The narrative films focus on central cores that are rarely the focal point of films. First Winter is really strong and beautiful. While We Were Here is possibly one of my favourite films in the whole festival. These are fresh, original, different kinds of stories.

“Some of the films in our Spotlight section are among the better films I have seen in a while,” Gilmore adds, citing Struck By Lightning, Cheerful Weather For The Wedding, Morgan Spurlock’s new doc Mansome and Cinemania entries Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal and Revenge For Jolly! as among the expected highlights.

For his part, Boyer says he relished the challenge of coming to New York after his public departure from Cannes (he took over from 10-year Tribeca veteran David Kwok, who left in November). “I am here to learn, because it will be my first Tribeca. It’s a fantastic challenge and the team here is fantastic, so professional,” says the Frenchman, who continues to also work with Les Arcs European Film Festival. “It was a proposition from Geoff Gilmore and he wanted to change Tribeca a bit and take it to the next step after 10 years.

“The work of an artistic director is not only to be in New York and see films — it’s also to talk with the film-makers, screenwriters, producers and to see people. We have to seduce a lot of film-makers. Once they’re invited, they’re happy to be in New York. Tribeca is just before Cannes so it’s difficult to get films, but sometimes [film-makers] don’t want to wait for a response from Cannes. A lot of film-makers are attracted to Tribeca because there’s a New York audience.

Boyer adds: “At Directors’ Fortnight I was on the selection committee and had to choose 21 or 22 films, but programming 90 films is an opportunity to do something bigger. Now we have Cinemania and I like popular cinema, so there are some commercial titles.”

Away from the line-up, Gilmore says Tribeca Enterprises continues to develop ties with film-makers further afield. “We are exploring a range of places in Europe, Africa, Latin America and India. One of the most exciting things you can do is build bridges that work both ways in terms of bringing films into the US and showing US films to the rest of the world. We continue to be very much committed to our relationships with the Qataris in Doha [Tribeca partners with the Doha Film Institute on the Doha Tribeca Film Festival]. We are trying to figure out how an Arab film community can be built. It’s about trying to build a film culture and a community.”

Multiple platforms for film-makers

On the distribution side, Tribeca Film continues to build the pipeline. “Tribeca Film is a natural evolution for supporting film-makers,” the festival’s executive director Nancy Schafer says. “We started it at the festival because it’s the window where we have most visibility. It quickly grew as a year-round platform supporting film-makers with multi-platform release strategies utilising on-demand and theatrical.” Schafer says the acquisitions team scours global festivals and markets and, as a result, the pipeline has grown to more than 25 releases per year.

‘I am here to learn. It’s a fantastic challenge and the team is so professional’

Frederic Boyer, Tribeca Film Festival

Gilmore adds: “We continue to open up pathways for film-makers to connect with consumers across different platforms. It’s difficult to define success for theatrical, festival and video-on-demand releasing. We are happy with the distribution programme of four films that will be coming to Tribeca. They include narrative films Death Of A Superhero and The Giant Mechanical Manand documentaries Booker’s Place and Side By Side.”

Matt Spangler has been brought in to help develop the online festival and provide a dynamic adjunct to the distribution venture. Gilmore notes: “We want to be at the cutting edge. The numbers we have put up in terms of VoD for a small and young company is something we can look at with real respect.” (However, as with most digital distributors, that data isn’t released.)

Returning to the question of Tribeca’s identity, Gilmore and his cohorts feel the programme will more than ever speak for itself this year. “There’s always a search for what that [identity] is with Tribeca,” he says. “Its commitment came from its original impetus to revitalise the downtown community after 9/11. Since then, it’s explored a range of different identities. Tribeca is about discovery and has a populist sensibility and a New York edginess to it. The festival has gone through a maturation period in its search for identity.”